PALM SPRINGS, CALIF. — Rocky Barnes’ mom used to sell surf collectables at the Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena and the model-blogger, as a teen, used to roll her eyes at the down time spent there. Little did she know that would largely become a key part of her personal style and what fueled the inspiration for a new collection due out next month in collaboration with Express.
“I feel really, really proud of how it came together,” Barnes said Saturday in Palm Springs as she awaited taking the stage to speak at the Create & Cultivate Desert Pop-up conference. “Obviously, I’m not a designer, but I feel like the Express team really helped me mold everything together. I know there’s a million influencer capsules going on right now, but I feel like this one is really just distinctly me. I’m not scared of color. I’m not scared of patterns. It’s stuff you can mix and match. There’s not one set outfit.”
The collection is broad in its range with maxi kimonos, bodysuits, cropped tops, jumpsuits, skirts, dresses, shorts and an assortment of footwear, including Western-inspired booties and slide heels. Leopard, a mustard floral print, pale lavender and white are just some of the colors and patterns infused in the collection. Pricing is from $34.90 for a camisole to $118 for a maxi dress.
“I’m all about dressing for the occasion and I love pulling inspiration from everywhere I travel,” Barnes said. “My mom’s also a hairdresser so I’d sit in the salon and read Vogue, Harper’s, Elle front to back and then I’d go to the flea market and put all of the inspiration pieces I loved from the magazines and redo it vintage because I didn’t have the money to go buy Gucci and all these amazing things in the magazines. So that’s how I dressed growing up and I think that really came through in the collection. When I was younger it was kind of embarrassing because when you’re younger, you always want to have the new stuff, but my family didn’t have a lot of money. So I was doing what I could to get the things I wanted. But I’m grateful for [that experience] now.”
Having worked with multiple brands, Barnes said there’s real interest on her end to now create her own line.
The Express x Rocky Barnes collection was revealed to consumers at a pop-up during Create & Cultivate’s one-day conference held the same weekend as the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. During the conference attendees could pre-shop the collection to have the pieces delivered to their homes.
Barnes had worked with Express in the past, mainly posting looks on her social media. This collaboration reflects a step up in the partnership between the two.
“Everything I ever worked with [Express] on just did so well [on social],” Barnes said. “They say all the time influencers are always wearing expensive stuff. I’m all about high-low. I love wearing designer stuff, as does everyone, but I also don’t think that’s realistic. I love being able to let all my followers and the people who love my style have a piece of that.”
Barnes is the latest to link with the retailer in a design series that kicked off with Olivia Culpo in January. The series focuses on what Patrice Croci, Express vice president of brand and performance marketing, described as inspirational women.
“It really is about aligning with people and partners and brands that align back to our mission of outfitting ambition and Rocky completely fits that,” Croci said. “We appreciate that she has been a young model who really has built a brand. She’s become a jet-setter and now a designer. She’s been a digital influencer and she’s done it in a really cool, authentic and self-confident way.”
Express worked with Reunited Clothing to help the company identify key influencers to partner with for this series.
“[Rocky] has been hands-on since Day One. She has come in and collaborated with our designers, picked the prints and picked the patterns,” Croci said. “She actually has been part of the photo shoots. So not only did we photoshoot with her in L.A., but she came to Columbus, Ohio and styled our e-commerce looks.”
Barnes’ husband, Matthew Cooper, even got involved in the collection, shooting the photos for the look book, driving home the point of just how invested she’s been in the project. The fact that she’s been attending the Coachella musical festival for the better part of a decade now made all the more sense to do a collection that debuted there.
“That’s why this one made sense,” she said of the Express collaboration. “I’ve been coming to Coachella for so long. It’s such an integral part of me growing up and my style. I’ll dress like I’m going to Coachella on Monday going to the grocery store, so it’s not such a reach for me, you know what I mean? I dress like this all the time.”